8 Nov 2006

An echoless ravine

From Yawning Bread of course.

There's a certain ironic symmetry in the way the Singapore government faces off against the Singapore people.

Almost everyone with a political view has critical opinions about the state of politics here, but they have very low expectations that they will be heard should they speak up. Nothing will change, many say, with a tone of either resignation or disgust. It's like shouting across a ravine to the government on the other side and getting no response. Not even an echo comes back.

Meanwhile, minister after minister does the round of schools, polytechnics and universities, trying to encourage young Singaporeans to speak up. Political apathy will be fatal for our future, they say. They then cock their ears for the feedback that they want to hear, but instead get none. Not even an echo comes back.

(It's not that students are silent at these forums, but what they say in response is seldom what the government wants to hear. Since the government's ear filters out what their brains don't want to hear, they end up hearing nothing at all.)

In August 2001, a forum was organised to discuss the NUS Political Association Survey which had polled a random sample of 2000 NUS students [1] on issues such as political participation, awareness, attitudes and expectations. Of the more than 600 respondents, 77% had noted that they were not interested in political participation now and 88% had felt there were barriers that prevented them from entering politics, including the fear of authorities. One had remarked that 'Politics in Singapore is a taboo topic', while 48% had felt that it was boring a topic to discuss. Forty-five percent had seen it as being for the elite only.

The discussion panel included the Acting Minister for the Environment Lim Swee Say and he faced a barrage of questions. One student asked, 'How can the Government encourage students to participate in politics when it comes down hard on the opposition?' (the Straits Times, 23 August 2001; Lianhe Zaobao, 23 Aug 2001; Today, 22 August 2001)

The above passage (I have not corrected the occasional typographical error) comes from a paper by Huang Jianli, published in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Number 3, 2006. It is titled Positioning the student political activism of Singapore: articulation, contestation and omission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

since the elite members are so smart, they dont need others to provide ideas; how can guys who dont have harvard/stanford degrees
(or at least, went to RJC) have anything worth listening to?

(btw - I did not attend any of those institutions, my kids did, but we are not members of the elite)